The Peaks: Breathless in Dovedale – another ‘Jolly’ before the end of 2016.
My first blog of 2017. Happy New Year one and all.
Towards the end 2016 I managed to fit in several ‘Jollies,’ and as promised I shall be sharing them with you during the next few weeks.
Those familiar with my ‘Jollies’ know that when-ever I go anywhere I find interesting I like to share my experiences and photos with my friends here.
I wasn’t joking when I said several ‘Jollies.’
I’ve managed to visit lovely countryside, lakes, historical houses,
and enjoyed the run up to Festive Season in a famous Church and a historical house
which is in ruins at the moment, but with the love and care of volunteers it’s slowly being restored to its original state.
But I rush ahead.
The first of my ‘Jollies’ took me to the Peak District. I’ve passed through there before but never visited and looked around due to hectic schedules.
For those who don’t know:
The Peak District is an upland area in England at the southern end of the Pennines.
It is mostly in northern Derbyshire, but also includes parts of Cheshire, Greater Manchester, Staffordshire and Yorkshire.
The Peak District is supposedly the second most visited National Park after Mount Fuji in Japan which is saying something.
The National Park hasn’t any mountains the stature of Mount Fuji, yet it can boast some impressive hills, moors, outcrops, and gritstone edges with many having different characteristics, some being in the bleak gritstone moorland of the Dark Peak whilst others nestle into the beautiful scenic limestone country of the White Peak.
I don’t want to jump ahead so will leave talking about seeing spectacular views such as the rock outcrops of The Roaches – which I passed on my way to Buxton, and Curbar Edge which I climbed in the rain on a misty afternoon until next time.
I want to share the experience of visiting a lovely, seemingly unspoiled area on the edge of the Weaver Hills and surrounding area: Dovedale.
Dovedale is a valley in the Peak District of England.
The land is owned by the National Trust, and annually attracts more than a million visitors annually.
The National Trust acquired its first property in Derbyshire exactly 100 years ago when it was gifted the 17th century Market House in Winster in 1906, but Dovedale was not acquired until 1934 when, mainly owing to the generosity of landowners Sir Robert and Lady MacDougall, Mr. F. Holmes, and I.C.I. it was gifted to the National Trust along with a proposal to make it Britain’s first ever National Park. It was eventually included within the Peak District National Park in 1951.
Dovedale is the name given to an area of the Dove valley between Milldale and Thorpe Cloud, which has some of the most spectacular limestone gorge scenery available in this country.
The name Dovedale is from the Norse ‘dubo’ meaning dark.
Vikings settled in the area around 800 AD. Local place names such as Thorpe are of Scandinavian origin. These settlements became permanent, and Thorpe is mentioned in the Doomsday Book of 1086
Everywhere the river is flanked by steep cliffs, with many caves and rock pillars, of which Ilam Rock is the most spectacular.
My visit with relatives newly moved into the area was undertaken on a wet and misty morning with a distinct chill of Autumn in the air. The trees were on the turn and I kept thinking that had I visited a week or two later I would have been party to that wonderful show of colour and shades Autumn treats us to each year. I’m not complaining because what was on show was still beautiful…but just imagine the photos I would’ve taken!
Not one for climbing or hiking – I am more the strolling or brisk walk type of person – I determined to climb and amble and hike with my younger, more energetic companions, even if it meant puffing red-faced to the top of some pretty steep and rock strewn hills, ever mindful of staying upright and not falling and making myself look a complete idiot or worse still, injuring my shoulder which is still recovering from breakages following a tumble-down stairs some time ago.
My first challenge of the day was to cross the river Dove via a set of stepping-stones. Quite daunting when the stones are rather high, slippery, with nothing to hold on to. Another opportunity to make a complete ass of myself by falling in. I managed it but was filled with dread at the thought of returning later, after our walk and climb, to do it all over again. It’s not an age thing. Had I been twenty I’d have not wanted to cross. Me and water – not great pals – add in height and slippery surfaces and it is a recipe for disaster. Seriously, I am not safe.
The steps were built by Italian prisoners of war captured in WW2.
The river is a well-known trout fishing area, made famous by Izaak Walton in his classic 17th century book ‘The Compleat Angler’, and you will often see anglers by the side of the river I am assured.
Having crossed the river in one piece without shaming my companions by making a big splash, we walked along the river enjoying the sounds it made as it gently meandered past. Birds were singing and wind rustled the trees about us. We could smell the earth under our feet as we navigated rocks jutting from the pathway. On one side the river and a steep bank was covered with trees, on the other side a steep incline with rocks jutting out loomed high above us. If only they could talk. Imagine.
In places the water rushed over boulders and large stones and was quite deafening when up close.
We came across a Heron which was sitting on the opposite bank of the river, quietly doing whatever Herons do whilst remaining completely still. It allowed us to get quite close to take photographs.
More huffing and puffing (me, not the youngsters) up a steep incline with steps, passing others huffing and puffing either going up or coming down, each red-faced and concentrating on not slipping or falling.
After what seemed a lifetime in which I grew hotter and hotter and wanted to rip everything off in spite of the cold and damp, we reached the top and glory be, a seat. I almost ran to it anxious to get off my aching legs and knees. Climbing was never a problem just a few years ago.
I almost forgot:
On the steps beneath our feet as we climbed I could see fossils which were embedded in them. So clear to see. Really fascinating.
We sat and enjoyed the view of the steep cliffs opposite and the various trees rising high above the river, covering the sides dense and mysterious. My lungs eventually ceased hurting and I began to forget thoughts of oxygen masks and para-medics – well you never know.
If ever I was on the run, I thought, what a great place to hide out. Mind you, I might never make it if I had to climb the cliffs opposite to hide deep within the forest. Perhaps I’d be better trying the New Forest; far more civilized.
The rain started again and the mist began to descend as we made our way back down. Mindful of the slippery stones and gravel which didn’t help when trying to place one’s feet, we made it back all in one piece.
Back at the stepping-stones we encountered a queue to cross (in both directions), so it was good thing we came early. We started chatting to an American couple who’d escaped their large family to holiday in England. Both were anxious to tell us they didn’t vote for Mr Trump. A long discussion followed and we parted laughing and wondering what on earth was going on in the world.
Imagine coming to such a lovely spot to discuss politics and the new President Elect. Way too much culture in one day.
That is it for this part of the day. It was a lovely visit and I recommend it if you ever get chance. Wear good walking shoes and waterproofs (in-case you can’t manage the stepping-stones) and take your camera. Well worth it.
Part two to follow soon: A visit to Ilam is next.
All photos are (c) Jane Risdon 2016 All Rights Reserved.